Kombucha: Myths vs. Truths

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top view of kombucha brewing jar with scoby at the top

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
~ Confucius

What Is That Thing?

It’s a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), a term coined by kombucha enthusiast Len Porzio in the mid-1990’s. It may not look appetizing, but it creates a very popular fermented beverage that goes for $4 a bottle in the health food stores. Luckily, you can make it very inexpensively at home. You just need 6 simple ingredients: a SCOBY like the one pictured above, tea, sugar, clean water, a warm place, and time. The final product contains a blend of beneficial bacteria and yeast (probiotics) as well as certain acids and enzymes that aid digestion, detoxify the body, and promote health. However, with popularity sometimes comes infamy, and a number of myths have cropped up surrounding kombucha over the years. Let’s separate the myths from the truths.

Kombucha History & Science

Kombucha has been around for thousands of years, believed to have originated in China, traveled throughout Asia and Russia and eventually became a health craze in the US over the past two decades. Legend has it that it was named after a Korean physician Kombu who healed the Japanese Emperor Inyko with the tea, and the tea was then named after him: “Kombu” + “cha” (which means tea.)

The science of fermentation is one practiced in homes, rather than laboratories, and for that reason it has an air of mystery. These living foods change from batch to batch, and since they can’t be patented or highly controlled,  there’s no real incentive for the science community to spend resources in research. Therefore, health claims tend to be anecdotal, and certain assumptions about the “science” behind the process get spread with no real evidence to support those assumptions. We know fermented foods are powerful in their ability to support a healthy body, and restore balance to an unhealthy one. We don’t really know the fine details of how this occurs.

Well, Michael Roussin, a kombucha lover, decided he wanted to know what exactly was in this drink that made him feel so good. With the help of a professional lab, he spent 18 months testing 1103 samples of kombucha, from batches all over North America and parts of Europe, with different teas, sugars, temperatures and brewing times, and he discovered some surprising things. Here are some highlights from that report:

Busting the Myths

  • Although kombucha is made with caffeinated tea, by the end of the fermentation cycle, none remains. MYTH. Roussin found that the caffeine content doesn’t reduce at all. This myth might have started because only 6-8 teabags are used to brew a gallon of kombucha tea, which is half the strength of a normal cup of tea. The good news is that kombucha doesn’t need caffeine to thrive. If you want to remove even more of the caffeine, simply pre-steep the tea bags for 30 seconds and throw that water away. Then steep these teabags again in fresh hot water, for the kombucha brew. The majority of the caffeine is dispersed in the pre-steeping. Update: You cannot decaffeinate tea at home. Thanks to Mari in the comments below for busting the myth of pre-steeping tea to remove caffeine. Lab testing shows this eliminates only a small amount of caffeine. If you can’t have caffeine, buy tea that has been decaffeinated by the CO2 method (a healthier choice, compared to the more common chemical decaffeination.)
  • Although kombucha is made with sugar, by the end of the fermentation cycle, none remains. MYTH. There will always be a little sugar remaining, and the amount depends on how long the tea is fermented. Generally, people brew the tea according to their taste. A 5-day brew is going to have a high quantity of sugar remaining. A 30-day brew is going to have very little remaining (yet still some). Most people brew the tea for 7-12 days, when it has a tangy sour flavor with a touch of sweetness remaining; on average, the amount of sugar at this point is 16 grams per 8 oz. cup. This is equal to 4 teaspoons of sugar. You could brew the full 30 days to minimize the sugar, but at that point, the drink is so sour, people usually add juice to make it palatable. If you do this, you’re going to get 12-20 grams of sugar from the juice. This is why many people call it a healthy soda-pop. The “healthy” part comes from the  probiotics and beneficial acids it contains, and rest assured the sugar content is much lower than regular soda. You may feel tempted to try to make your kombucha with less sugar or no sugar at all, but sugar is the food your SCOBY needs to create the probiotics and acids you seek. It will become malnourished and eventually die without it. If you want to know the sugar content of your home brew, you can use sugar test strips. Update: Silvia (in the comments below) did the math and noted that 16 grams per cup is the amount of sugar added when you begin the kombucha brew, so how is it possible that it’s still that concentrated at the 7-15 day mark? Here’s why: In the first stage of fermentation, the yeast uses the minerals from the tea to produce enzymes that separate sugar into glucose and fructose. At the 7-day mark, that’s as far as the process has gone. The sugar is easier to digest, but hasn’t yet diminished in concentration. By the 15-day mark, it is just starting to eat/diminish the sugar content (3.3 teaspoons of sugar per cup remaining at that point.) The sour flavor comes from the acids that are forming, but that sweet tone is still the sugar, unless you brew it a full 30 days. A study done by Cornell University confirmed these results.
  • Kombucha is rich in B vitamins. MYTH. Although it does contain these vitamins, the amounts are so small they are almost immeasurable. This was confirmed by the International Journal of Food Science and Technology.
  • Kombucha is rich in glucuronic acid, a powerful detoxifier of the liver. UPDATE: UNDECIDED. Rouissin found no glucuronic acid in  kombucha. Ironically, he began his experiments intending to prove otherwise. He read a book by Harald Tietze in 1995, who said no reputable lab had ever found glucuronic acid in kombucha, so Roussin hired a reputable lab to prove him wrong. When he confirmed its absence instead, that got him curious about the other assumptions people had about kombucha, and his experiments continued. While he didn’t find glucuronic acid, he did find a different acid that is a synergist. Glucuronic acid is made naturally by the liver and works by binding to a toxic molecule and carrying it out of the body. Rouissin believes this synergist helps our body do its job. Update: Some recent studies report finding glucuronic acid in kombucha. They say Rouissin’s lab wasn’t equipped well enough to identify it. Roussin says they are mis-identifying keto-gluconic acid (the synergist) as glucuronic acid, a common mistake. Who is right? We don’t know. But here’s my thought – does it even matter? Everyone agrees that kombucha helps our bodies detoxify. They’re just disagreeing on a name.
  • Kombucha contains hyaluronic acid and glucosamine, which is why it’s so effective in relieving joint pain. MYTH. Kombucha contains neither of these compounds. However, it does seem to have a positive effect on the joints. Roussin’s theory is that it contains the building blocks for these compounds.
  • Kombucha contains over 50 different kinds of probiotics, organic enzymes, amino acids and vitamins. MYTH. Every batch of kombucha is different. The only things every batch contains are: (1) at least one beneficial yeast, (2) acetobacter (the beneficial bacteria in the SCOBY), (3) gluconic acid (a pH regulator) – note: this is not the same thing as glucuronic acid referenced above, and (4) acetic acid (an anti-microbial acid, which also stabilizes blood sugar) . Most batches of kombucha will also contain an analgesic (pain reliever), an anti-arthritic compound, an anti-spasmodic compound, a liver-protective compound, and several anti-bacterial compounds. The blend varies from batch to batch. See why this elixir can’t be patented? It embodies change.
  • Kombucha can cure everything from arthritis to gout to HIV to cancer. MYTH. As Hannah Crum of Kombucha Kamp says, “Kombucha is not a panacea – it doesn’t cure anything! It brings the body back into balance so that it may heal itself naturally. That is how it is able to do so much.” Results vary from person to person. Many people do say it helps their joint pain, keeps them from getting sick, gives them energy, aids their digestion, clears their sinuses, reduces their blood pressure, clears their eczema, alleviates their headaches, and the list goes on. Then there are other people who say they enjoy the taste, but don’t really notice any effect. And still others who have a negative response to kombucha. The only way to know what it can do for you, is to try it.
  • Kombucha is dangerous and has been linked to deaths. MYTH. This one is repeated a lot, and it usually starts with a sentence like this: “There is no scientific evidence that kombucha promotes health, just anecdotal reports. However, it has been linked to both illness and death.” (With never an acknowledgement that the last sentence is an anecdotal report, and there’s no scientific evidence that kombucha is harmful.) Let’s clear up that report, though, because it’s scary. Fermentation expert Sandor Ellix Katz sums it up nicely: “In 1995 the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report ran a story headlined, ‘Unexplained Severe Illness Possibly Associated with Consumption of Kombucha Tea,’ with possibly being the operative word. In two separate incidents, weeks apart, two women in Iowa had very different unexplained acute health episodes. One of them died. Both drank kombucha daily and made it from the same original SCOBY. The Iowa Department of Public Health immediately issued a warning to stop drinking kombucha ‘until the role of the tea in the two cases of illness has been evaluated fully.’ But they were never able to explain how kombucha may have been related to the illnesses, and 115 other people were identified who drank kombucha from the same mother without problems. When the mothers and the kombucha that possibly made the women sick were subjected to microbial analysis, ‘no known human pathogens or toxin-producing organisms were identified.'”
  • Kombucha is an alcoholic drink. TRUE. However, it’s a very small amount, usually between .5 and 3%, depending on length of fermentation. (Beer contains 4-6%.) Single fermentation home brews of kombucha usually contain only .5% alcohol. If you do a second fermentation in a bottle, to flavor it and increase the carbonation, the alcohol content will increase slightly. Store bought brands were found to contain more, because the product is still fermenting in the bottle, and a long time can pass between bottling and purchase. For this reason, kombucha was temporarily pulled from store shelves in 2010, while the federal alcohol trade bureau tested numerous samples and developed guidelines for kombucha manufacturers. Now, all store bought brands are supposed to have taken steps to prevent fermentation from continuing in the bottle. Sadly, this often means pasteurization, which limits the benefits of the drink.
  • If you ferment more than one kind of food or beverage (sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, etc.) you need to keep them away from each other, for fear of cross-contamination: MYTH. Sandor Ellix Katz addressed this in his book, The Art of Fermentation: “While different cultures may subtly influence one another through the air over time, typically this is not an issue….Betty Stechmeyer, who co-founded a starter culture business, GEM cultures, with her late husband Gordon and spent 30 years growing and selling fermentation starters, reports that for all those years she propagated several different sourdoughs, several different milk cultures, tempeh starter and more, in one 12×12 foot kitchen. ‘Pretty primitive and simple, eh?’ She never experienced cross-contamination. I cannot guarantee that cross-contamination among cultures is impossible, but it is not a likely occurrence, and I encourage enthusiastic experimentalists to ferment to your heart’s content without worry.”
  • Kombucha can make you feel worse. TRUE. While most people feel benefits from drinking kombucha, some people’s symptoms worsen. There are a few potential reasons for this: (1) Healing Crisis: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the GAPS Diet, says: “Apart from good bacteria a healthy body is populated by beneficial yeasts which normally protect the person from pathogenic (bad) yeasts, such as candida albicans. Kefir (and kombucha) contain these beneficial yeasts (as well as the beneficial bacteria) which help to take pathogenic yeasts under control.”  However, healing crises shouldn’t last more than a few days. (2) Histamine or Yeast Intolerance: Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria which improve the health of most people, with the exception of those who are yeast or histamine intolerant. In those cases, negative symptoms from drinking kombucha don’t improve with time, like they do with a healing crisis. So what do you do if you feel like kombucha is making you feel worse? First, lower the amount of kombucha you are drinking, and only increase as your body is able to handle it without discomfort. If you are experiencing a healing crisis, lower doses should slow down the die-off reaction and alleviate your symptoms. If you continue to have discomfort at small doses, stop drinking it altogether and try again in 6 months. (Food intolerances often disappear as we heal.)
  • FAQ: What about GT? Since writing this post, I have gotten numerous emails and blog comments asking about GT’s kombucha label, which seems to contradict this article. So the question people ask is this: who is right? First let me say I’m grateful that GT continued to make raw kombucha when many other brands went 100% pasteurized. It means that when I travel, I still have access to the real thing. However, that doesn’t mean I believe all their label claims. Inaccurate labels are incredibly common. The FDA simply doesn’t have the manpower to watch too closely, so it’s basically an “honor system.” While I do believe GT bottles contain delicious, raw, beneficial kombucha, I’m suspicious of the details. Here’s why: (1) They are unique among their competitors to claim the presence of B vitamins and glucuronic acid, and they list the quantities in precise amounts. If kombucha was a manufactured product where these items were added in measured amounts, it would be easy to quantify. Fermentation, however, embodies change. Every batch is different, and it also changes in the bottle as it continues to ferment on the shelf. Is it a coincidence that the numbers they claim match the myths behind kombucha, rather than the lab reports? If kombucha actually contains these things, why aren’t other brands including them on their labels? (2) Many GT bottles claim to have only 2 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving, yet they still taste a little sweet. This is where you need to ask yourself: where is that sweetness coming from? The label shows the total carbohydrate as 7 grams per serving, leaving 5 grams that has to be either starch, fiber, sugar alcohols or other additives. There is no starch or fiber in kombucha, so are there sugar alcohols added for sweetness, that aren’t listed on the label? Or is there simply more sugar than they say? Let’s compare their label to their raw competitors with a similar flavor profile: Reeds and Buchi both acknowledge 11 grams of sugar per 8 oz. serving, which is much more realistic. (3) Next, look at GT Original’s ingredient list. It simply says: 100% G.T.’s Organic Raw Kombucha (Organically Produced), and 100% Pure Love!!! Obviously that isn’t fulfilling any kind of legal labeling requirement. By contrast, here’s how Reeds lists their kombucha ingredients: Live organic Kombucha (spring water, organic cane sugar, organic oolong tea, organic yerba mate tea, kombucha culture). (4) This year, the kombucha industry formed a new organization: Kombucha Brewers International. One of its primary goals is to standardize labeling, because GT’s competitors are at a disadvantage. Consumers often choose GT, thinking it has more benefit and less sugar than other brands, when that isn’t necessarily true. Brand loyalty is an interesting phenomenon. It inspires almost a blind trust, but it’s important to remember that GT is a multi-million dollar company, and they make decisions with profit in mind. I’m not anti-GT. I believe they make quality kombucha, and I have bought it myself. But when it comes to the kombucha contents, I trust science over marketing labels. Update 2017: GT has settled a class action lawsuit about inaccurate labeling. As part of the settlement, they agreed to change their labeling to show accurate sugar content and remove claims of antioxidants. In checking my local store shelves, I see that most bottles now show an average of 6 grams of sugar per serving (with 2 servings per bottle), and B vitamins are no longer listed. 


Now, you know what’s true and what’s not. Leaving the myths behind, this traditional fermented beverage can still be a wonderful health tonic. We don’t need exaggerated claims, and we don’t even need to know how it works (although we’ll keep searching). Paleo guru Mark Sisson talks a lot about the N=1 (an experiment of one). That simply means that you try something yourself, and see if adds to, or detracts from, your health. Paleo leaders Dr. Terry Wahls and Robb Wolf drink kombucha themselves. Robyn Latimer, who put her lupus into remission through the paleo diet, also drinks it daily. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends it for the Full GAPS Diet. Her only caveat is that people should avoid it on the more restricted Introduction Diet due to the fluctuating sugar content. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne allows it on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, because fermented foods like kombucha offer so many potential health benefits. My next post will tell you everything you need to make a successful brew, and my final post in this series will give you the recipes. Stay tuned!

The following websites were very helpful in my research:

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177 comments on “Kombucha: Myths vs. Truths”

  1. If I never read any studies, myths, facts or contemplated the science of kombucha I would still know one thing: I love to drink this stuff.

    Now I’m brewing it and I care mostly how I feel when I drink it.

  2. I get so many GT questions via comments and email, that I have decided to update the article, so everyone can easily find the answers in one place. Bryan and Kelly, you’ll find the new GT paragraph toward the end of the article above.

  3. Hi! I’m new to Kombucha and your blog was very informative. One comment, I have a bottle of GT’s Synergy Gingerberry, and the label says it has 10mg of Glucuronic Acid, and you say Kombucha doesn’t contain Glucuronic Acid. Since I’m very new to learning anything about Kombucha, I’m just wondering what the discretion is. Thanks!

  4. Hi Eileen,

    Just curious about the sugar content… how is it that a good quality product like GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha has only 2g of sugar per cup? You say a cup will have 16g after brewing. I’m new to this and just wondering why such a discrepancy. I must be missing something. Thanks.

  5. Hello, I am so glad to find your website! I am a week into AIP and have been trying to find out more about kombucha and fermented foods. This page really clears up a lot if questions! When I google both, many descriptions state that they “boost” the immune system. I realize this term may be in use loosely. For those of us with autoimmmune diseases, it seems confusing to ingest something would increase immunity. Perhaps make more efficient may be more desirable. Could you clarify what kombucha and fermented foods actually do for immunity? Thank you so much!

    1. It would be more accurate to say they help balance the immune system, which is what we need. The good bacteria they contain aid is in numerous ways on their way through our digestive system: they help us digest our food, they help displace harmful bacteria, they tighten cell junctions helping to heal leaky gut, and they act as anti-inflammatories. All good things for people with autoimmune disease.

  6. Hi, I brew kombucha but was told that most of the sugar was eaten away leaving only a few calories. What you wrote about sugar content therefore disturbed me as I try and avoid fructose in my diet. You wrote that in the brewing process the glucose and fructose molecules of sugar are separated. Do you happen to know if the fructose is broken down into glucose? This would solve my problem. Otherwise can I make kombucha with dextrose (which is pure glucose) without starving my SCOBY? I await your wisdom.

  7. My husband is concerned that drinking Kombucha daily (an 8 oz glass) could promote liver problems because of the alcohol content. Could this be true? I don’t want to do anything that could impact my liver. I have noticed that when I drink Kombucha (which I make myself) brewed for about 5 days and second fermented for about 2 or 3 days, my digestion is much improved. When I pair it with a daily green juice, I really feel great. I would like to know if there is any risk to my liver, however.
    Thanks for letting me know your thoughts,

  8. Robert M Lockheed

    Great, informative article, thank you. I was curious if you have ever used Kukicha or twig tea in brewing kombucha? We brew about 4 gallons every two weeks. The amount of caffeine is not so much the issue – we are just wanting to branch out in creating different tasting brews of kombucha using a variety of teas.

    1. I haven’t, but it would be fun to experiment. Since it’s the right tea family (Camellia sinensis) it might work. The question is whether the stems and twigs of the green tea plant have enough of the compounds the SCOBY needs to thrive, or if those are isolated in the leaves. I recommend saving a backup SCOBY in a SCOBY hotel, just in case anything goes wrong. Let us know how it goes.

  9. Wow, this is such a comprehensive and helpful article. Thank you, Eileen! Do you happen to know how long a bottle of store bought raw kombucha will stay “good” in the fridge, once opened? I have this funny habit of drinking half a bottle of GT’s, then sticking it in the fridge and forgetting about it for weeks at a time. No idea how long some half-drank bottles have been there. Just wondering if you have any insight into their shelf life once opened. Thanks 🙂

    1. I’m not really sure. I think the risk would be any contamination that could have entered the brew from when you first drank it. If it was me, I would pour it into a glass and look at it carefully. Make sure it doesn’t look “funny” and nothing’s growing that shouldn’t be. Then if it smells and tastes good, it’s probably still good. (No guarantees 🙂 )

  10. Thank you very much for putting out all this information. I drink a bottle(16oz)/day of my home made KT. After a couple of cups I feel like I had an alcohol drink. I guess i have to cut the amount of KT I drink.

  11. My son is half Japanese and has a very strong allergy to alcohol. he gets very flushed and nauseas. It is so strong that despite wishing he could go out for drinks with friends (he’s 20) he really can’t tolerate it- even sipping to “fake it” gives him a fevery flush. Yesterday he drank a store bought bottled Kombu and he drank it really fast in its entirety and it floored him. He said he felt the same as if he had alcohol. I assured him there was no alcohol and thought it must be the fermentation! I was happy to find your article for several reasons and wanted to share my experience. It is a brand we often buy, and he has them once a week or so for the last couple months but usually we split it (16 oz bottle) this time he had the whole bottle and another new variable is that is was grape (!) flavour. Which we never had before. I think the grape may be more likely to produce more alcohol haha- right?? . Anyway, I disbelieved that he was having an alcohol reaction when I should have believed him- but I’m glad it wasn’t toxins or some such.

    1. Interesting. So, she isn’t saying that people don’t have sensitivities to some of the foods on the Cyrex list (like yeast), but that gluten cross-reaction is unlikely the reason.

  12. Hello,

    I have a question for which I couldn’t find a serious answer : can a probiotic capsule be added to the SCOBY at the beginning of its growth, in order to make sure that a specific probiotic will be present in it ? Can it be done safely and usefully ?

    I’d like to know because I have ulcerative colitis and a specific probiotic (Saccharomyces Boulardii) may help a lot with the inflammation of the colon, and this S. boulardii is supposed to be sometimes present in the kombucha (this is why UC people praise it a lot). “Sometimes”, so how to make sure it is ? The point is to get it in a more natural way than in capsules, even 100% organic vegan etc, hence the idea of introducing it in the kombucha (since S. Boulardii is originally present in the lychees peel, I thought to use that rather in Kombucha and water kefir).

    Hope you know the answer – if not, thanks anyway for all the thorough infos, that helps !

    1. Hi Elen. That’s an interesting question. Kombucha always contains at least one beneficial yeast, and most commonly it’s S. Boulardii, but you want to be SURE it’s there (which I understand). If you used a probiotic capsule, they contain more than just S. Boulardii, which might change the nature of the SCOBY and the flavor/balance of the brew. So, I like your idea of using the lychees peel. My only recommendation is to wait and use that during the second fermentation process, where people often add flavors. That way, you can safely brew kombucha according to tradition, and give it an S. Boulardii boost at the end of the process. Here’s the basic recipe, with instructions for the the second fermentation (if you don’t already have them): http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/04/01/kombucha-recipes-basic-elixir-flavors/

  13. Thank you for all the information. I have never tried Kombucha before, but I’m very interested in it. I told my father about it, and he bought, Synergy Kombucha, from a health food store. He drank a 16 oz bottle, and later complained of dizziness. Is that normal?

    1. I wouldn’t say it’s common, but I see two possibilities: a detox reaction, or a response to the alcohol it contains. The recommendation with kombucha is to start slowly if you’ve never had it before; it is a medicinal drink. As for the alcohol, storebought kombucha contains more than homemade, because it continues to ferment in the bottle before sale.

      1. Thank you for the fast response! He’s a drinker, and so it can’t be the alcohol. We ruled that out right away. Maybe it was a detox reaction. I’m going to try it, but not a lot at first, and see what happens. Thanks!

  14. Thank you so much I bought some at the store and liked it and then thought my pet might like a bit. She’s an exotic pet and used to like a sip of sparkling juice now and then. I had to stop letting her have it due to her developing insulin resistance (from an illness that effected her liver not from the rare juice). I had seen it mentioned in some fermenting videos in the past and it was just in the regular drink section near the coconut water so I didn’t think anything about letting her have a bit since it claimed to be low sugar(Gt’s).

    Then I went online to learn a bit more out of curiosity and saw the line that it was linked to death and illness and had a moment of panic, wondering what I had just given her. Was very glad to have found your article. It may not be as low in sugar as claimed but at least I was able to rest assured I hadn’t potentially poisoned her.

    Her blood sugar sky rockets if she has yogurt but maybe if I do let her have some again I could test her sugar level after. She reacts differently to different types of sugars. Lactose is very bad. So it’s still possible this would be okay for her in moderation.

    We have controlled her levels quite well with diet and herbs to support her liver but it has greatly reduced the types of treats she likes that she can actually still have.

  15. Thanks for a great read. I like to brew my kombucha for 14-21 days… and yes it can get pretty sour. I found that if I cut it with an herbal iced tea (berry zinger), I get a tasty drink without all of the sugar that adding fruit juice brings.

  16. Its totally interesting to me that there is both sugar (more than I thought) and caffeine because, although I cannot tolerate either in most other forms, I can drink kombucha till the cows come home.

  17. Can you tell me if kombucha & water kefir are similar in sugar content, after the brewing is complete? I want to get more probiotics into my diet but don’t want to add too much sugar to it. Your article was very helpful, by the way. There’s so much hype out there, it’s good to find some good info that has been researched. I think kombucha is too sugar laden for me but wondered how kefir compares. Thanks for any info you can give me.

    1. Hi Sue. I believe water kefir and kombucha have a similar sugar content. As long as you drink just a cup a day, that should be fine, but if you want to avoid sugar in your ferments altogether I recommend fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut.

  18. I did read the whole article. I just thought it would be worth a mention since I’m sure we are all after the healthiest brew possible, especially the pregnant women. Thanks and healthy brewing!

    1. Hi Robert. Did you read the full article? She actually answers your question. If you’re concerned about fluoride, simply use organic tea and filtered water. I’ve always brewed my kombucha that way, to protect myself and my SCOBY from all chemicals, not just fluoride. Happy brewing!

  19. Oh great. I just downed a delicious glass of my newest kombucha batch after several years of not doing so and started feeling REALLY bloated. I have gluten sensitivity and food allergies (leaky gut syndrome) so I may be reacting to the yeast. I sure hope not! I love kombucha and just started making water kefir too.

    1. It could just be the quantity Ingrid, since you haven’t had it in years. Drink just a little bit next time and see how that goes.

  20. This is juicy stuff. There is a local brand that is doing pretty well. They do not in mention any nutrition information. Im guessing it isnt mandatory. I personally would like to know. And im sure many others would too. Its kinda wild how they can sell without that info.

  21. I follow your Facebook page and usually really like your articles, but this one leaves me scratching my head. While I don’t believe that everything I read is true, I do believe I can trust the labels of a company like GTs Kombucha. Their label states 2g sugar per 8 oz, and our local Lion Heart Kombucha states 0g. I don’t think that the amount of sugar removed is negligible as stated in your article. Can you please address this? Also, you state that B vitamins are negligible, again this is directly contradicted by the label. Please help, this is very confusing.

    1. Hi Kim. I’ve already addressed this in the article and the other comments. I think people want to believe the myths behind kombucha, which is why it’s hard sometimes to accept the science. Wouldn’t it be great if we could drink a sweet fermented beverage that had no sugar, its sweetness there by some sort of magic? And if it could be a B supplement at the same time, all the better. Unfortunately, the laboratory research says otherwise on all these counts, and Roussin’s research isn’t an anomaly. Others who have had their kombucha tested have found the same results. GT’s labels continue to match the myths, and they have never released any lab reports that back up those claims. What you personally choose to believe is up to you. I simply report the science. I still love kombucha for its beneficial acids and probiotics. I keep my portions moderate due to the caffeine and sugar that remain.

      1. Thank you for your quick reply! I’m a scientist actually so it really intrigues me. I just ordered those residual sugar strips because the only way to know is to test it! Thank you for the link to that.

        It’s just super disappointing since also our local kombucha brewer in Portland says 0 g of sugar. I have one of their scobys and use their recipe, I’ll be sure to report back!

        1. Testing it yourself is absolutely the best way to know. Since you’re a scientist, here’s another study by Cornell you might be interested in. They were researching the anti-microbial properties of kombucha, but they also noted acid and sugar content of their final brew. They found 4.8% glucose, which translates to 10.77 grams per 8 ounce glass. Interestingly, that’s the exact amount Reed’s brand of kombucha lists on their nutrition label (11 grams).

  22. Very interesting article. My husband just started brewing kombucha tea, and before that we enjoyed GTs and Reed’s commercial kombucha brands. If the nutrition information on the bottles is to be believed, both brands have 50 or less calories per 8 oz., around 2-4 grams of sugar. Why do you think this is so much less than the average 16 grams per 8 oz. you mention in your article? They are very palatable, and don’t have added sweeteners (aside from little enough fruit juice/puree to make up 2-4 grams of sugar per cup). It doesn’t make sense unless the label is lying, you know? My husband brews for 7-11 days and uses fresh fruit to infuse his kombucha (fermenting for another 2-3 days before refrigerating). He uses a mixture of black and green teas. They taste lovely, very similar to the store bought brands we have enjoyed. Do they really have nearly four times the sugar of these brands? And why is there such a difference in sugar content, if not in flavor? I have given up concentrated sweeteners (including fruit juice, except in whole fruit smoothies and the tiny bits in kombucha), so I was glad I didn’t have to give up kombucha. Now I am worried that drinking 8-16 oz. of kombucha most days is going to get me addicted to sugar again (although it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve been drinking my husband’s homemade kombucha and I haven’t noticed any sugar cravings). I am also very sensitive to caffeine, but haven’t noticed that “wired” feeling I usually get after consuming caffeinated soda or coffee ice cream (which I haven’t done in years). Can it really be just psychological that I don’t react to the sugar and caffeine in the homemade kombucha? I’m so confused!

    1. The mind is a powerful thing, but it’s also possible your body responds differently to fermented sugar and caffeine than plain sugar and caffeine. I guarantee you that both are present in your home brew. As for GT & Reeds, Reeds shows 11 grams of sugar per 8 ounces, which is pretty close to what numerous scientific studies have reported. GT’s label is totally different than all published scientific studies and they keep their process secret. So either GT has discovered a way to make kombucha completely differently from everyone else, or their secret policy is a cover for continuing to make label claims that aren’t scientifically accurate. I personally enjoy 8 ounces of kombucha daily, and the sugar and caffeine don’t bother me, but I don’t recommend drinking more than that.

    2. I always noticed that caffeine in tea works differently than caffeine in coffee or soda. I can fall asleep after a cup of coffee! It seems to go through the system much faster and the tea caffeine works slower and stays longer – that’s why for some people caffeine in kombucha could be not very noticeable.

  23. I am writing this at 3am local time. Just finished brewing a second batch of Kombucha. The first one turned out way too vinegary and I only drunk a sip at the time, diluting it with juice and water. I drunk a full cup of the second batch at 8pm and was bouncing off the walls until midnight and now up at 3 in the morning. Basically, judging from above, I just drunk a cup of strong black tea that was brewing for 4 hours at 8pm. I am actually wondering if all these “increased energy” reports are due to all the extra caffeine people have been consuming.

    1. Hi Natalia. It looks like you would be better off brewing your kombucha with decaf or drinking it in the morning. To clarify though, kombucha has only half the caffeine of a regular cup of tea, so your strong brew analogy isn’t quite accurate. That said, many people still find that to be too much caffeine for them, so they choose to make decaf kombucha. Try that and keep brewing – you’ll find the perfect kombucha for you!

    1. Patricia, there are different schools of thought on that. The beneficial yeasts in kombucha are supposed to displace harmful yeasts like candida. BUT kombucha does have sugar in it, which is a favorite food for candida. The best thing to do is test it for yourself. I recommend a long brew cycle (more tart than sweet) to reduce the sugar load. Also, drink it in moderation (start with 1 oz daily and go to a maximum of 8 oz daily, if you tolerate it well).

      1. Does anyone have proof that the sugars encourage Candida, since it is also anti-fungal in nature. I think we assume to much. I used a professional treatment to rid my Candida overgrowth, while my wife stuck with kombucha. There is no sign that she suffers with it now. The sugar will be used up, as well, if you wait longer. The more sour it is, the more beneficial acids are present. If you put it in a closed jar and give it a few months, it will become vinegar and the scoby will (don’t allow it to pressurize).

  24. Great article. I previously believed some stuff that wasn’t true. Glad to know now.
    I’ve been brewing my own Kombucha for about 3 years now and have only ever used dextrose/glucose as I try to avoid fructose except from fruit. I often see online that this can’t be done and will result in sick scoby’s but this just isn’t true. I have an abundance of very healthy scoby’s that I often giveaway. (Just in case someone is wondering about glucose only).

  25. I am fairly new to brewing kombucha, but love it so far. I have a question about the thickness of the scoby. I let mine brew 10 days, as it is winter a cooler in the house. Only a very thin scoby forms on the top. Therefore, all my scoby’s are thin. All the pictures I see, they are thick disks!! Should I let my tea brew until the scoby is thicker? Does the thickness of the scoby reflect the amount of goodies in the brew?
    Thank you for your knowledge!!

    1. Hi Valerie. 10 days in a cool house probably isn’t enough time to get a really good brew going. I have my kombucha sitting on a seedling mat (for added heat), inside a cooler (for insulation) and it still takes mine 3 weeks to brew. Another good place for kombucha is the top of the fridge, because that’s usually a warm spot. As for the thickness of the SCOBY, that’s a sign of a mature SCOBY. The thin ones still do the job, but I think the thicker ones do even better.

  26. Hi, I have a question.
    I my sugar tea mixture had just cooled, and I have added my SCOBY and starter tea from my last batch. However, it seems some of the loose tea escaped from the tea bags and there are now small tea leaves on the SCOBY in my fermentation vessel.

    I have read both that this will harm the process while others say it should not matter.



    1. Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine that harming the SCOBY, but I’ve never had that experience, so I can’t say for sure. Just to be on the safe side, you can remove the SCOBY and use a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to strain out the tea leaves. With clean hands, remove any that are stuck to the SCOBY itself. Then, return the strained tea and SCOBY back to your container, and you’re good to go. If you don’t want to go to all that trouble, you can risk it and see what happens. Let us know!

  27. Like many other people, I am very curious about this whole sugar thing. I have severe arthritis that I am able to keep under control through diet; limiting sugar to less than 5 grams a day (and even that much, not every day) is key for me. I do really, really well with GT’s Original (not the alcoholic one) and Raspberry Chia and have drunk it for years. They each have a sugar content of less 4 grams in the whole 16 ounce whole bottle according to the nutritional labels. I am afraid to try any other brands due to their high sugar content. I am now inheriting a SCOBY and would like to duplicate my success with the GT commercial bottle. Should I assume that their low sugar content is related to a longer ferment time than other brands? If I try to duplicate the degree of tartness, is that a good indicator when I am making my own? I have had homemade kombucha that is way too vinegary and I am hoping to not have to take it that far. Any advice would be amazing.

  28. I haven’t seen a single study on PubMed, which are peer reviewed studies, that suggests glucoronic acid is not present in kombucha. Sorry, but it’s hard to buy one man’s story, alone.

    1. I find it fascinating that people care so much about whether it does or doesn’t contain this compound. It doesn’t mean kombucha isn’t beneficial or detoxifying. It simply means the theory of “why” is changing. A tenet of science is being willing to let go of what we thought was true, to learn what really is true. You can certainly wait for PubMed to confirm it, but you might be waiting a long time. Research funding is hard to come by, and kombucha doesn’t top the priority funding list. If you’re skeptical, you can always conduct your own study. The Happy Herbalist tests their kombucha regularly and found the same results as Roussin. Their brew contains high amounts of gluconic acid, and keto-gluconic acid, but no glucaronic acid. It is believed that keto-gluconic acid is the compound which was mis-identified as glucaronic acid in the past.

  29. One of the pages I posted this info on got a very interesting response. A woman told me that she had kombucha brewing close to sourdough and when she uncovered the dough a scoby had formed in it! Now that might happen in kefir or vinegar but it sure doesn’t in sourdough! Makes me wonder about that part. The rest of it makes very good sense though.

  30. Thanks so much for this, I’ve been passing it along All Day today, lol! Even experienced brewers are in the dark about a lot of this stuff and, since their technique has worked for them so far, reluctant to change their minds or the info/instructions they pass along to newbies. It’s terrific for one who is new to this sort of fermentation to start off on the right foot.
    Now I wish there was something similar about the kefirs, water and milk. I’m just starting with those and there is so much info about water, sugar, additives, jar and bottle type, lids, aerobic vs anaerobic conditions, etc etc etc and most of it unique and contradictory! It’s exhausting just reading it all. Thankfully most anything has worked for me so far but it would be so nice to actually Know for sure what’s what.
    I’ll have to keep looking for that :).
    Thanks again!

  31. Healthy Energy Guy

    Thanks for the link to maximize fizz. I certainly hope I can get close. I guess I need to check again but I could have sworn they didn’t use carbonation. If they do then that will disappoint me a bit. The point of going for a natural drink like this is to get away from carbonation.

  32. I am so glad I found your post. I was wondering how one could test sugar content. I found a brand called Live soda that I would like my brew to taste like. It only has 60 calories per bottle. Im thinking that they add the stevia after the brew / fermentation process. I am also very keen to keeping the fizz. I really enjoy that part.

    1. There’s a link in the article to sugar test strips (in the paragraph that talks about sugar) and they’re quite easy to use. As for keeping the fizz, you need to know that you’ll never achieve the fizz of storebought kombucha because they carbonate it like soda. Natural fermentation fizz is more subtle. That said, here’s an article on ways to maximize the natural fizz. Happy Brewing!

  33. I was diagnosed with AFS (Adrenal Fatigue syndrome) and my hormones and liver metabolism are struggling…..I am on bio-identical hormone creams and am told this is ‘dangerous’ with Kombucha tea, no-one can tell me why?! Can you help clarify this? Also, any indication what the correct daily amount is? Thanks!

    1. Kombucha is considered to be detoxifying, so maybe they thought it would strain your already struggling liver? However, studies show komubucha is liver-protective and helps restore a damaged liver. The best way to know whether it’s beneficial to you is to try it in small doses, and see how you feel. I would start with a tiny bit – 1/8 cup. Then 1/4 cup. And work your way up to a maximum 1 cup daily. Keep drinking if it feels good; stop drinking if it adds to your feelings of fatigue.

    1. If they’re willing to email me the lab report, including the name and address of the lab, I’ll be happy to update the article accordingly. Keep in mind, though, that 20% daily value of vitamin B still isn’t very much. Just 4 ounces of clams contain 1648% your daily value of B12, for example. Kombucha isn’t going to meet your vitamin B needs. That’s OK. The acids and probiotics are where its real health properties lie.

  34. hello,
    The article says that there is not much B vitamins in Kombucha, however the back of GT’s Kombucha showed 4 B vitamins with 20% daily values of each. are they adding it to the kombucha?

  35. Do the Kombucha tea bags that you buy in the store in a box like regular tea bags have any of the same benefits, or do you really have to have the carbonated liquid drink.

    1. Cathy, the benefits come from the fermentation process, so it’s not the carbonation or the tea itself, but rather the time and activity of the SCOBY digesting the tea that creates probiotics and beneficial acids. I think homemade kombucha is the most beneficial. After that, I would trust raw storebought bottles of kombucha (specifically labeled as raw so that you know it still contains the probiotics. Most bottles have been pasteurized which kills the probiotics, although the beneficial acids may remain.) The teabags seem to be a marketing ploy. They’re not going to give you the benefits of kombucha.

  36. Hi Eileen,

    A well-written and balanced article. One additional myth you might like to add to your list is that a SCOBY is not absolutely necessary to brew kombucha.

    When I first started brewing I was given a SCOBY which was too large for my jars. I was going to cut the SCOBY up until I read that it is a byproduct of the fermentation process rather than the cause of it (although it obviously contains the yeast and bacteria responsible). So I tried a batch just using the kombucha as a starter and it worked fine, happily forming new SCOBYs in each jar.

    Since then I reuse the SCOBYs (I have read the microbes form them to protect the brew from contamination and to optimise the environment to their liking), but they are not strictly necessary.

    Hope this is interesting/useful,


    1. Hi Michael. In my Kombucha Tips & Troubleshooting article I mention that you can grow your own SCOBY, and it looks like that’s what you did. It tends to take a lot of energy and the kombucha brews slower without a SCOBY in the jar. Usually people use 100% kombucha to grow the SCOBY and then start brewing normally from there (adding 1 cup of starter kombucha to each gallon of sweet tea). Skipping the SCOBY in a normal batch of sweet tea with just a small amount of kombucha starter tea is risky, because of the contamination risk you mention at the end of your comment. Mold is a concern with any fermentation, and the SCOBY combined with the starter tea is the safest way to keep mold away.

      1. Hi Eileen,
        Thanks. Yes, you do cover it in that link. I suppose I thought it was worth adding to your “myths” page because of all the angst people seem to have about the “health” of their SCOBY. I fully agree that starter tea + SCOBY which forms a good seal at the top of the jar is the safest way to brew. (The usefulness of a sunken SCOBY is debatable, however, else why would a new one form at the surface?)
        Keep up the good work 🙂

        1. Hi Michael. A new SCOBY always forms on top, whether the old SCOBY sinks or stays on the surface. The only difference is that when the SCOBY stays on the surface it gets nice and thick (the result of multiple babies fusing together over time). The location of the SCOBY doesn’t matter so much – it’s presence anywhere in the jar strengthens the fermentation process. Thanks for your comments. It’s always nice to hear from another kombucha lover!

  37. Excellent information about Kombucha. I’ve been brewing Jun (made with green tea and honey) for several months now and enjoy the taste. I can’t tell if it has any positive effects on my health but I’m hoping over time it (along with other fermented foods) will help balance out the bacteria in my gut. I also want to mention that I purchased my SCOBY from the Kombucha Momma and have had great results! Hannah is very helpful in answering questions via email, too.

    1. Jun’s on my list of ferments to try in the future. Green tea and honey are two of my favorite things.

  38. My friend just told me that Synergy Kombucha has added vitamins. The ingredients only say kombucha and strawberry puree. Is this true? It does say it has vitamins. It labels them as additional nutrients. Help?

  39. Aloha Eileen,

    We are experimenting with favors. I read about your lemon ginger mix. Are you using distilled flavors, lemon juice, ginger slices?

    1. Hi Nate. Yes, lemon juice and ginger slices does the trick. Just be sure and add them during the second ferment (after the kombucha has brewed). Have fun experimenting. Almost everything tastes good with kombucha.

  40. I seem to get faster brew times from darker teas. What is the reason for this? I initially thought it was the caffeine content and had even recovered a sunken SCOBY by using a strong Pu-ehr. Yet there are claims of people using decaf tea with success. I haven’t tried it, but I might just try a batch of decaf black and see how it goes. Also, is it true that SCOBYs cannot touch metal? I heard this, and it seems like everyone uses glass, but I tried metal without any problems, and what about plastic. I also heard a claim about Mountain Dew working, but Kombucha doesn’t thrive on fructose, not to say that genetics can’t change on the fly, and maybe there are some noticeable differences from strain to strain. I’d imagine that SCOBYs can evolve pretty quickly given how fast they replicate, but I don’t know jack. Anyways, this is all fascinating, and I’d love to see some more discussion and exploration into the true science of kombucha.

  41. I know that not all of the caffeine doesn’t go away in the process, BUT, i am caffeine intolerant yet i get no reaction from drinking kombucha. When i say intolerant, i mean i can get severe reactions from the caffeine even in chocolate. I don’t know what’s the deal is with that but from someone that hasn’t had a cup of coffee in 15 years, i find Kombucha magical.

  42. If Kombucha does not need caffeine to thrive then simply use Red Tea (Rooibos). Rooibos tastes great and has no caffeine (naturally in it). I’m doing my first batch right now.
    I have Candida so I am hoping that it combats that. I read there were two kinds of Kombucha,- bottom and top yeast. The top yeast is the S.Boulardii yeast one which is antagonistic towards Candida.

    1. Kombucha needs black, green or white tea to thrive (the Camellia sinensis family of teas). Rooibos isn’t in that family. You can make Rooibos kombucha, but be sure and brew your kombucha with black tea every other batch, to keep your SCOBY fed.

    1. That’s odd that he rated it L5, since that rating is for research proving harm, and there’s no such research to my knowledge. I’m not a doctor, so this is just my opinion. If you’ve been drinking kombucha regularly throughout pregnancy, I see no reason to stop once the baby is born. If you’re new to kombucha, you might want to wait until you’re finished breastfeeding. Although it’s rare, some people have a detox reaction, or an intolerance reaction, and the baby could as well.

  43. Need help quickly lol! I’ve been making kombucha with white sugar, and decided to brew a batch with unrefined cane sugar. Taste is a little different and I like it. Ok here’s the question: I’m brewing my 2nd batch of cane booch; is it ok to use the scoby from the white-sugar batch, or does that incite some sort of probiotic war? Help! Thanks!

  44. I love the taste of kombucha and I had success brewing it.
    Then I wanted to try water kefir because it seemed less complicated and easier to keep going.
    What is the difference between the two? Aren’t they both probiotic beverages?

    1. They’re both good for you. Kombucha is unique in the beneficial acids it contains (not present in kefir). Kefir is unique because its probiotics can actually colonize your digestive tract (whereas other probiotics only stay temporarily). So, they’re both beneficial, for different reasons. I wouldn’t say kefir is easier. It is faster; it brews in 24-48 hours. However, that means you have to keep up with it daily, compared to keeping up with the kombucha only once every 1-3 weeks. To me, they’re both pretty easy. They say the more varied your fermented foods, the better your digestive health, so if you’re interested in trying kefir, go for it!

  45. my kombucha nutritional facts say that in every bottle the b2, b6, b1, b3 and b12 content is 20 percent of the daily value. so either they’re lying (which is false advertising and they could be sued), or you’re incorrect about b content. I suppose you could say 20 percent of DV isn’t a lot, but to say it’s immeasurable is an exaggeration, because according to the nutrition facts, it is measurable.

    1. If you’re buying your KT from the store and it has nutritional data listed, it is possible that company is actually adding other ingredients and vitamins to their product so that it has that listed composition.

  46. Since I have been making and drinking Kombucha, (late winter of 2013) I have had flare-ups of eczema. I have never, ever had this before and I am 65 YO woman. It subsided during the summer but now it’s back in colder and dryer weather–a larger spray of it on my calf and on the top of my right hand and one finger.

    I eat Paleo/Primal very closely to the parameters that work for me and I have for nearly 2 years now with excellent health results. This rash puzzles me. There is history of thyroid problems in my sisters and daughter (Hashimotos), but I don’t have any symptoms of hypothyroid or hyperthroid that I notice. I have always been health conscious with exercise and diet but found I have gluten sensitivity mainly manifested in brain, mood, depression issues. Stopping wheat and gluten made a significant difference. But this rash is making my head scratch. My first inclination is to take a break from KT for awhile to see what happens since this has all started since brewing and consuming my own KT. How long do you think I should try this. Any ideas? Die-off doesn’t seem to fit my case as wouldn’t it be over by now?

    1. Taking a break makes sense to me. As for how long, I recommend a few months, to give the eczema a chance to heal if the KT is the cause.

      1. Thanks. I drink at least 16 oz. a day and since that is the only really new thing that I have never eaten in my past 65 years, and it’s fermented I will give it a try first. If it isn’t that, will try the nightshades elimination.

  47. Hi, we have been drinking a small amount of kombucha tea every morning for a couple of months now but it gives us all (4 of us) very gassy stomachs and causes quite a stomach ache if a full glass is drank. I was expecting this to have passed by now but it hasn’t changed at all and is causing me to think about ceasing brewing it and giving it to my family. Does anybody have any suggestions as to what could be causing this and how to rectify it before I give in! Thank you

    1. How much is a full glass? More isn’t always better with kombucha. If your body responds well to a small glass, stick with it. 4 ounces is a medicinal serving. However, if even small amounts give you gas, your bodies are telling you that it isn’t medicinal for you at this time, so stopping isn’t “giving up” but simply listening to your bodies’ wisdom.

  48. I am one month into the AIP diet for celiac, leaky gut and adrenal fatigue and yeast overgrowth and have been making a point to have either kombucha or fermented cabbage on daily basis. My question is, how do I know if I am going through the die-off stage or if I have the cross-reaction sensitivity?

    1. The die-off phase is temporary. You feel a little worse for a while, but then you feel a lot better. The cross-reaction sensitivity won’t improve. You’ll just keep feeling bad. If you’re not sure, go ahead and remove the fermented foods for 30 days and reintroduce a small amount. If you get a strong negative reaction, that’s cross-reaction.

      1. Thank you for the help! I will avoid these for the next month and then re-introduce.

        So wonderful having blogs like yours to go to for advice and help while navigating this complicated process.

  49. Hi Eileen,

    Your post came up in a Google search for Kombucha Intolerance, which is pretty fun because I always enjoy visiting your blog.

    This article is so enlightening, especially the information about sugar and about cross-contamination. I thought it was too good to be true that the scoby rather than the drinker consumes the sugar. I taste the sweetness in it, although I can tell when the sugar “turns” from harsh to mellow, usually about 7 days in my environment.

    RE cross reactivity: My husband, who has celiac disease and psoriasis, has found that his psoriasis flared when drinking it, so he had to stop. He can’t tolerate mushrooms, so he’s wondering if the reaction is related to mushrooms, but it could also very well be cross-reactivity to the yeast. He’s taking a break from drinking it; it would be nice if he could tolerate it later.

    Thanks for your great research!

    1. I’m so glad Google sent you here, and you found the article helpful. I learned so much myself when I wrote it, which is an excellent side benefit of writing this blog. One mission I have with all of my articles is fact checking information before printing it. Myths abound!

  50. Great article! 2 questions though:
    1. Can kombucha be made with decaffeinated black teas?
    2. I have a compromised liver and have read that Kombucha is not safe for me to drink. There are many conflicting sources, what’s your take?

    1. Hi Tanya. It’s not recommended that you use store-bought decaffeinated tea, because the process of decaffeinating the tea removes many of the properties the kombucha needs for brewing. However, you can decaffeinate it yourself by pre-steeping regular black tea bags for 30 seconds in boiling water. Then remove the bags to a plate. Boil some fresh water, steep the bags again, and follow the rest of the kombucha recipe from there. The pre-steeping removes 90% of the caffeine. In fact, I do this myself, because I usually drink my kombucha in the evening and don’t want a stimulant before bed. As for your second question, kombucha has been shown in studies to be protective of the liver, so I would think it would be beneficial to you. But it might be wise for you to start slow, with just 1 ounce the first day, increasing by 1 ounce daily, and see how your body feels.

      1. Sorry to say, the home decaffeination method you describe has been shown through laboratory testing to be another myth, although because you’re convinced it works your mind actually overpowers the caffeine’s effects and you don’t stay awake – ain’t the mind great? 🙂 Unfortunately, my placebo effect isn’t that strong, and even with a full minute of initial steep the tea caused my typical somewhat-unpleasant reactions to caffeine, so I did further research. See http://elmwoodinn.com/about/caffeine.html for one good breakdown of one lab testing decaffeination by the dunk-and-discard method – there are several other sites on the web with more information as well. I joined a kombucha discussion/swap group online and MANY of the participants have used commercially-decaffeinated tea (CO2 method, both green and black) for years, and their SCOBYs are healthy and robust. I have a batch going now with Ty-Phoo decaf (from the UK) and even though it’s only 4 days into an 8-day ferment I can taste that it’s “booching” just fine, and it’s growing a nice baby.

        1. Busted! Thank you for teaching me something today, Mari. I’ve updated the article and given you credit. It’s always a sad day when we lose our placebo effect.

          1. Goodness! You didn’t need to give me credit, but thank you, I am honored! I am sorry to have “busted” your placebo effect – if the steep-and-dump method works for you, by all means use it!

            I just wanted to give an update on my decaf kombucha brewing; I switched to Luzianne decaf tea since the Ty-Phoo turned out too astringent for my palate (great hot tea, terrible kombucha!); the Luzianne, which is blended specifically to be consumed cold, produces delicious kombucha and many healthy, plump babies. (I use between 2/3 and 3/4C sugar per gallon of water. I prefer Zulka brand because it is non-GMO and cheap!) I’ve also been “breaking the rules” even more the last six weeks or so by brewing what I’ve nicknamed “chaibucha”, using Stash Decaf Chai Spice Black Tea (budget again!), even though flavored teas are one of the big “thou shalt nots” in the KT world… comes out super yummy (never have to do a second fermentation) and again, lively babies. An e-friend of mine was making it so I dove in too! So I think we should be less afraid to experiment (with extra SCOBYs – isn’t Mother Nature lovely to give us a new SCOBY with every batch? it’s practically an invitation to play!) because wonderful things can happen.

            Also, I do not mean to step on any toes regarding your affiliation with Kombucha Kamp, but I would like to invite those who cannot afford $25 for a single SCOBY to join the Facebook group “Kefir Grains, SCOBY, and Others To Share” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/181445115312844/ where we share SCOBYs and other cultures for only the mailing costs ($3-6 for a SCOBY), with local shares always free. I, like many other members, have also donated shipping costs to people who really could not afford even a few dollars but could potentially be helped health-wise by Kombucha. We believe that startup costs should not be a barrier to the enjoyment and health benefits of kombucha brewing. We also swap advice, techniques, recipes, discuss our experiments, and just generally have a good time!

        2. For those just getting started making their own kombucha, finding a scoby is not really necessary if you have access to non-pasteurized commercial kombucha like the GT Original. I started my brew with 2 bottles of the GT Original in a 1 gallon jug and added the sweet tea to it to fill the jug and it created a scoby and kombucha and I’ve continued feeding it and drinking it for almost a year now. I know of others who have done the same. Results are no different than the jar I started by getting a scoby and starter from a neighbor. I would think this would be easier than trying to have something mailed to you, or at least another option.

          1. Hi Donna. You are absolutely right, and I actually link to a tutorial in my Kombucha Tips and Troubleshooting article. Although results tend to vary with this method. Some people grow a strong SCOBY easily (like yourself), while others run into trouble. It may have to do with the quality of the bottle people buy. Like you said, it’s important that it’s raw. It’s also important that it’s unflavored. Thanks for the tip!

  51. Hi Eileen,
    I make a lot of Tea from the Maroon Bush(Scavolia) for people with cancer and the results are very very good.
    I am about to try this Kombucha and was wondering if using the Maroon bush as a tea would be Ok. What are your thoughts?
    A reply would be much appreciated.
    Kind regards

    1. Hi Charlie. Kombucha needs Camellia sinensis tea to thrive. That’s the black, green & white tea family. You can do some experimenting with the Maroon Bush Tea by adding one or two bags to the six bags of Camellia sinensis. Another option is to alternate brewing with 100% maroon bush tea one batch and 100% black, green or white tea for the next batch (which will reboot your SCOBY.) Since I haven’t worked with the maroon bush tea, I don’t know what your results would be, but it can be fun to experiment. My recommendation is to keep a backup SCOBY available, in case your experiments kill off your original one. Let us know how it goes.

  52. There are a couple of corrections to be made. The beneficial acid that is used to detoxify the liver is called glucuronic acid and can be found in some kombuchas. Furthermore, a lot of commercial brands still are over the 0.5% alcohol limit. A hydrometer will not tell you much about your alcohol content. All it measures is your density. Density is affected by sugar content, alcohol, acids, etc. Lastly, the test strips suggested only test for glucose and fructose. The main sugar in the ferment will be sucrose (if table sugar is being used, which I think most people use). But overall, a decent article on kombucha.

    1. Hi Rebecca, thanks for commenting. I realize that many blogs continue to say that kombucha contains glucuronic acid, but in lab tests of over 1000 kombucha samples from expert brewers around the world, glucuronic acid was never found. That isn’t to say that kombucha isn’t detoxifying; it’s just not glucuronic acid that makes it so. I totally agree with you on the fact that some commercial brands of kombucha will have more than .5% alcohol limit, if they’re raw (unpasteurized) and have been stored outside of a fridge. In fact, GT’s raw kombucha requires that buyers be 21 and older to purchase for that reason. Thanks for the clarification on the hydrometer. I’ve removed that recommendation and link from the article. As for the sugar test strips, you’re right that table sugar is sucrose, but it gets broken down into fructose and glucose during the first phase of fermentation. So, the test strips should still work.

  53. THANKS for this article. I learned a lot. I’ve long wondered about the sugar content, and now I know I can get test strips. Keep up the informative blogs!

  54. I brew kombucha with only half the amount of sugar which I arrived at by dowsing. I also add 3/4 tsp of black strap molasses which I got from telepathy from the kombucha, really! I get great kombucha and I am never sick.

  55. I thank you for an informative article. I have a question. I am looking at producing Kombucha for a small community, and since the ATF mess a couple years ago, people are skeptical to start up…I need to convince a man that owns facilities that his community would still get benefit out of a heat-treated-low alcohol product. Can you tell me or point me in a direction to learn what benefits can still be had after stopping the process to keep the alcohol under .05%? Thanks so much. Amanda

  56. I had never tried this before, until I had a taste at a local farmers market, I liked it and bought two bottles, one for me and one for a friend. I found the taste quite sweet and nice, she found the taste very bitter and had to mix it with some juice, I tried the one from the bottle I gave her and again to me very sweet. Could her body be telling her she shouldn’t be drinking it. When I was low on zinc a doctor gave me something to drink and toled me to keep drinking it until it tasted bitter then stop. Is this similar

    1. I don’t think that’s the case here. People have different preferences for sweet vs. sour, and if your friend eats a lot sweets and you don’t, that affects taste as well. When you make it at home, you brew it to your preference for taste, so you would probably brew yours longer, and your friend would brew hers a shorter time.

  57. Thank you for an interesting info. I brew kombucha home for the past year or so and really enjoy it. I’m very curious about the content of the sugar in the end product. I use 60g of sugar per liter of tea in the beginning of the brewing process. That translates to 15g of sugar per 250ml cup (=8oz.) in the beginniing. You state in your article 16g per 8oz et the end of brewing. So, it would mean my kombucha creates sugar during the brewing process 🙂 I read in other resource there is approximately 0.5-3 % sugar left (from original amount) in the brew depending on the length of time. My brew certainly tastes like there is less amount of sugar then 4 tsp per mug.

    1. Thanks Silvia for doing the math and challenging me to do more research! You are right that the amount of sugar I say remains in the kombucha is equal to the amount that was added in the beginning. (1 cup sugar = 250 grams. 16 cups per gallon = 15.625 grams per 8 oz. cup (in the lab, they rounded up to 16 grams). How is this possible? Well, in the first stage of fermentation, the yeast uses the minerals from the tea to produce enzymes that separate sugar into glucose and fructose. At the 7-day mark, that’s as far as the process has gone. So the sugar is now easier to digest, but hasn’t yet started to diminish in quantity. This was confirmed not only be Roussin, but also author and research scientist Christopher Hobbs, who did his testing through the Irvine Analytical Laboratories. Double the fermentation time to 15 days, and the sugar content starts to reduce, but frankly, not by much. Again, this has been confirmed outside of Roussin’s experiments by John Novar through Kappa Labs in Miami. They found 1.65 grams of sugar per ounce of kombucha fermented 15 days, which equals 13.2 grams per 8 ounce cup (3.3 teaspoons). I think the sour we taste is a result of the acids forming through the fermentation process, but the sweet note comes from the sugar that remains unless you brew it a full 30 days.

      1. This makes me rethink if my kids and I should continue drinking our beloved kombucha 🙁
        It’s a whole LOT of sugar!!

        1. It is a tough call. I will say that kombucha helps my arthritis in a way that other ferments don’t, so for me, the good outweighs the bad. However, I limit the amount that I drink to 4-6 ounces daily. That’s still a medicinal dose. The research is a wake up call, though, for people who drink multiple bottles/glasses per day.

  58. Excellent points! One nagging question that still remains for me is this: if it is truly an ancient beverage, what would ancient kombucha makers have used instead of refined sugar to brew it? Do you know the answer to that one?

    1. Excellent question! I don’t know the answer, but I did a Wikipedia search on the history of sugar, and apparently sugarcane is native to Asia where this drink originated. As far back as 500 BC, there’s mention of turning the sugarcane juice into sugar crystals. Granted, the process was different then vs. now. I would think organic evaporated cane juice would come closest?

      1. This is simply speculation but I would guess early kombucha-like ferments might have tolerated alternative sugar sources. Katz mentions “jun” briefly in his newest text. I happen to have a colony originating from his and was able to successfully brew it with raw honey. Ferment has been healthy in my kitchen since June. The final product looks and tastes to me to be extremely similar to traditional kombucha.

        1. Hi Gingi. From my research, I found that white sugar has the best chance of brewing success, which is why it is recommended by all the experts. Some people like yourself have done well with more natural sugars; others have failed when they tried that route. My recommendation to anyone who wants to experiment, is this: Keep a backup SCOBY in storage and then only do the experiments on the SCOBY babies. That way, there’s minimal risk, and you can see how different SCOBYs thrive or suffer based on different sugar sources, and also see how the taste changes.

        2. I have been brewing jun for about 4 months now. I received the scoby mama from a lineage that goes to a Tibetian monk, making it direct from SE Asia, not europe. The culture certainly acts different than the kombucha I was fermenting before. The jun scoby tends to be more delicate and converts a bit faster than kombucha, and also carbonates incredibly well. I am using organic white peony tea and local wildflower honey.
          Eileen, I am wondering if you have found any research on the benefits of jun, especially in relation to assisting with vitamin K2 supplies in the body? Thanks!!

          1. I would love to try Jun some day. It sounds wonderful, and I love the story of your SCOBY lineage. How cool is that? To answer your question, I’m not a Jun expert, but I’d be surprised if it contained any K2. My understanding is that comes from animal sources only (grassfed dairy, pastured eggs, etc.) Undoubtedly, Jun has many other beneficial ingredients, though.

        1. See my reply to Gingi above. Some people do succeed with more natural sugars, but others say their SCOBY suffered. You can give it a try!

    2. Northern Asians may very well have used sugar from beets. I shun sugar from anything but cane but that is because almost all sugar beets grown in this country are GMO.

    1. Yes, decaf still works. Just make sure they’re naturally decaffeinated rather than chemically decaffeinated.

  59. How do you store a SCOBY? I’m very backed up with my kombucha supply right now since I can only tolerate about a shot a day, otherwise it gives me a headache. But I have almost two gallons in the fridge. Right now it’s in a tupperware with a non-airtight lid with a cup of tea in a dim place… Unfortunately I once left a bottle out on a counter because I noticed that batch was giving me way worse symptoms than the others, so I left it out to pour it in the garden or something, forgot about it, and within two weeks it (and the bottle) exploded all over the kitchen!

    1. Liz, if a shot a day gives you a headache, I would stop drinking it. As I say near the end of this article, some people have what’s called a gluten cross-reactive response to the yeast in fermented foods. It sounds like you may be one of them. Focus on other aspects of a healing diet, and when your symptoms lessen, you can try kombucha again. As for the exploding bottle – yes – if you leave an airtight bottle of kombucha on the counter for more than a few days, that is a risk. You only keep it on the counter when it’s brewing and still contains the SCOBY. After that, you can do what’s called a second ferment and leave a closed bottle on the counter for 2-3 days to increase the carbonation, but if you leave a closed bottle on the counter too long (and 2 weeks is definitely too long) the carbonation will build up to the point that it explodes. And here’s a link to storing extra SCOBYs.

    1. Have fun, Laurie! For me, the patience waiting for it to brew is the hardest part, but I love the stuff, and it’s definitely worth the wait.

    1. It is important to know, so we can make a conscious choice. To put it in perspective though, it’s about the same amount of sugar as a cup of plain yogurt. I still drink kombucha, because it has so many beneficial acids and probiotics, but I keep my serving size to 4-6 ounces, instead of a larger serving. And for anyone with blood sugar issues, it would be better to drink it with a meal, rather than on an empty stomach.

      1. Blanche-Marie Couture

        Eileen, I want to thank you for all your information, it’s really helpful to know. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes but border line. I have been using kombucha on and off but I always let it ferment a long time for the sugar to disappear even though it is sour I just ad some raw honey and Stevia. I quit all types of grains except wild rice. I had a check up done on my blood a couple of weeks ago and was it was normal no trace of diabetes. The night before I ate 5 dates before going to bed as a test. Needless to say how happy I am. I read sometime ago that pasta, wheat and bread would create this condition. Blessings….

    1. Thanks Alisha. I look forward to seeing your kombucha post. There’s always something more to learn!

    1. If you’d like to try making it, I’ll be posting a recipe next week. It’s fun to make & quite delicious.

  60. I love this! Thanks for the breakdown.

    One of my favorite takeaways about health in general: “It brings the body back into balance so that it may heal itself naturally. That is how it is able to do so much.” 🙂

  61. You never fail to amaze me with your knowledge and I always learn something new! Your posts are extremely helpful in my quest for the most nutritious diet I can possibly have. I am currently doing the GAPS diet for RA too, but after 2.5 months I haven’t seen a ton of improvement. It still comes and goes in cycles, usually weekly. It never quite is “gone” though, and I wonder how much longer it will take. I started the diet almost immediately once I realized what I had. (no diagnosis yet from an MD) You are an inspiration to me, so keep these posts coming!

    1. Have you seen some improvement, though? My progress was slow, too. I keep a daily journal of my symptoms and then once a month type up a summary. I didn’t see improvements day-to-day, but rather month-to-month, and without the journal, I wonder if I would have noticed at first? We tend to notice what’s hurting now, rather than remember what has passed, and subtle differences can be harder to see. My flares kept coming as I healed, but they slowly lowered in both number and intensity. If you’re not keeping a journal, I recommend it. As for how long it takes, Dr. Campbell-McBride says 2 years is common. That sounds like a long time, but we need to remember that RA was growing in our body for years before we realized it. Reversing that process takes an equal amount of time. Mine isn’t 100% gone yet either, but it’s 90% diminished, and that is awesome. My pain is very minor now – I wouldn’t even use the word pain – it’s more of an awareness that there’s still some inflammation in my joints. I have 2 more posts coming in the kombucha series, and I recommend trying it, if you’re up for it. I’ve only added this to my protocol recently, but I can feel a difference. It really does seem to help with joint pain, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that it’s a digestive aid, since they are so connected. Thank you for reading, and writing me your kind words. It means a lot.

      1. Thanks for the answers to my questions. I do an occasional entry in my calendar as to how I feel, but nothing daily. Maybe I will start now. As for kombucha, I’ve been making batches for about a year. I love it and drink it everyday. I’ve worked up to 8-10 oz a day with no problems at all.

      2. Blanche-Marie Couture

        Hi Eileen! what a pretty name…I just finished reading your post and here is a tip I used for joint pain. I had shooting pain in all my joints. I did lot of research and found out that Pau d’Arco mixed with Cat’s claw is wonderful for joint pain so I bought a one gallon crockpot and use spring water instead of tap water. I made a tea of both barks, you boil it first and reduce to warm and that is it. You have tea for 2 to 3 days. One cup 3 times a day or more. The best part is that I experienced a relief after a couple of days and after a couple of weeks no more pain. You may want to try it too …Blessings….

        1. I was diagnosed w/RA when I was 54 now 67yrs…in 2007 I started drinking Kombucha I am on very little meds now…I also stopped eating meat do eat fish lots of veg…I have a strict diet…I hardly ever grave sugar I attribute this to kombucha…I”m also extremely active I do tri’s…My dr. claims its my level of activity that limits my symptoms, but I think its more the kombucha/diet…I’m afraid to not move….for fear of not being able to. My mother/grandmother were plagued w/this disease. I’m also a recovering alcoholic and do concern myself somewhat w/the alcohol content….we are making kombucha now at home…my husband has perfected it and it’s delicious…what is your feeling on that? I honestly don’t taste any alcohol in it…but I have couple of friends that are in the program and they do not do the 2nd fermentation…we do b/c of the fruit we use…which is different every batch…thank you for this site its greatly appreciated by me…thank you L.N.

          1. Hi Linda. That’s a personal choice re: the alcohol. My husband is a recovering alcoholic also, and he drinks kombucha with no problem. But I know others are more cautious than he is. I have found that longer fermentations increase the alcohol content – the more vinegary your brew, the higher the alcohol. And the length of the second fermentation would make a difference also.

  62. Awesome article, and yes raises conflict with long held understandings I had about caffeine and sugar content….not that either concerns me personally, many people that drink my home made KT flavours ask about it. Thank you so much

    1. You’re welcome! I had those same beliefs before writing this article. I’m very grateful to Michael for getting “obsessed” enough to do the research. What’s your favorite KT flavour? I had lemon ginger tonight – yum!

  63. Great article; thank you! You’ve actually corrected some of the things I thought were true about kombucha…I’m glad that now when I explain health benefits to people I can be more accurate! 🙂

    1. My research corrected some of my own assumptions, too! That’s why these articles are so fun to write; I always learn something.

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